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Xiaoyan Jiang, Sara A. Rauscher, Todd D. Ringler, David M. Lawrence, A. Park Williams, Craig D. Allen, Allison L. Steiner, D. Michael Cai, and Nate G. McDowell

Abstract

Rapid and broad-scale forest mortality associated with recent droughts, rising temperature, and insect outbreaks has been observed over western North America (NA). Climate models project additional future warming and increasing drought and water stress for this region. To assess future potential changes in vegetation distributions in western NA, the Community Earth System Model (CESM) coupled with its Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (DGVM) was used under the future A2 emissions scenario. To better span uncertainties in future climate, eight sea surface temperature (SST) projections provided by phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) were employed as boundary conditions. There is a broad consensus among the simulations, despite differences in the simulated climate trajectories across the ensemble, that about half of the needleleaf evergreen tree coverage (from 24% to 11%) will disappear, coincident with a 14% (from 11% to 25%) increase in shrubs and grasses by the end of the twenty-first century in western NA, with most of the change occurring over the latter half of the twenty-first century. The net impact is a ~6 GtC or about 50% decrease in projected ecosystem carbon storage in this region. The findings suggest a potential for a widespread shift from tree-dominated landscapes to shrub and grass-dominated landscapes in western NA because of future warming and consequent increases in water deficits. These results highlight the need for improved process-based understanding of vegetation dynamics, particularly including mortality and the subsequent incorporation of these mechanisms into earth system models to better quantify the vulnerability of western NA forests under climate change.

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David W. Stahle, Edward R. Cook, Dorian J. Burnette, Max C. A. Torbenson, Ian M. Howard, Daniel Griffin, Jose Villanueva Diaz, Benjamin I. Cook, A. Park Williams, Emma Watson, David J. Sauchyn, Neil Pederson, Connie A. Woodhouse, Gregory T. Pederson, David Meko, Bethany Coulthard, and Christopher J. Crawford

Abstract

Cool- and warm-season precipitation totals have been reconstructed on a gridded basis for North America using 439 tree-ring chronologies correlated with December–April totals and 547 different chronologies correlated with May–July totals. These discrete seasonal chronologies are not significantly correlated with the alternate season; the December–April reconstructions are skillful over most of the southern and western United States and north-central Mexico, and the May–July estimates have skill over most of the United States, southwestern Canada, and northeastern Mexico. Both the strong continent-wide El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal embedded in the cool-season reconstructions and the Arctic Oscillation signal registered by the warm-season estimates faithfully reproduce the sign, intensity, and spatial patterns of these ocean–atmospheric influences on North American precipitation as recorded with instrumental data. The reconstructions are included in the North American Seasonal Precipitation Atlas (NASPA) and provide insight into decadal droughts and pluvials. They indicate that the sixteenth-century megadrought, the most severe and sustained North American drought of the past 500 years, was the combined result of three distinct seasonal droughts, each bearing unique spatial patterns potentially associated with seasonal forcing from ENSO, the Arctic Oscillation, and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. Significant 200–500-yr-long trends toward increased precipitation have been detected in the cool- and warm-season reconstructions for eastern North America. These seasonal precipitation changes appear to be part of the positive moisture trend measured in other paleoclimate proxies for the eastern area that began as a result of natural forcing before the industrial revolution and may have recently been enhanced by anthropogenic climate change.

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Steven C. Hardiman, Ian A. Boutle, Andrew C. Bushell, Neal Butchart, Mike J. P. Cullen, Paul R. Field, Kalli Furtado, James C. Manners, Sean F. Milton, Cyril Morcrette, Fiona M. O’Connor, Ben J. Shipway, Chris Smith, David N. Walters, Martin R. Willett, Keith D. Williams, Nigel Wood, N. Luke Abraham, James Keeble, Amanda C. Maycock, John Thuburn, and Matthew T. Woodhouse

Abstract

A warm bias in tropical tropopause temperature is found in the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM), in common with most models from phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5). Key dynamical, microphysical, and radiative processes influencing the tropical tropopause temperature and lower-stratospheric water vapor concentrations in climate models are investigated using the MetUM. A series of sensitivity experiments are run to separate the effects of vertical advection, ice optical and microphysical properties, convection, cirrus clouds, and atmospheric composition on simulated tropopause temperature and lower-stratospheric water vapor concentrations in the tropics. The numerical accuracy of the vertical advection, determined in the MetUM by the choice of interpolation and conservation schemes used, is found to be particularly important. Microphysical and radiative processes are found to influence stratospheric water vapor both through modifying the tropical tropopause temperature and through modifying upper-tropospheric water vapor concentrations, allowing more water vapor to be advected into the stratosphere. The representation of any of the processes discussed can act to significantly reduce biases in tropical tropopause temperature and stratospheric water vapor in a physical way, thereby improving climate simulations.

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